Triplets Patrick, Ryan and John Driscoll will celebrate their fourth birthdays, June 25, with presents and a party. A week later, they'll attend a lacrosse camp at George Mason University.
But it's not just any camp — it's named after their father who died in November 2002 of a brain tumor at age 44. The camp raises money for the boys' daily living expenses and health insurance.
"Last year was the second year of the camp, and it was a great success," said Sonny Esposito, who runs the camp with fellow Centreville resident Larry Megale. "We had 235 lacrosse players attend and were able to raise $43,000 for the triplets."
The 2005 John Driscoll Memorial Lacrosse Camp for boys 7 through 17, runs July 1-3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day at GMU's athletic fields and field house. Cost is $150 for ages 7-9 and $225 for ages 10-17; register by June 24. Further information and an application are available at www.jd32laxcamp.com.
The staff includes Megale, Centreville High's lacrosse coach and an 11-year, youth-sports coach; Esposito, Westfield High's lacrosse coach and an eight-year youth-sports coach; Bruce Arena, U.S. World team head coach; Kevin Corrigan of Notre Dame; Dom Starsai, UVA head coach; and Dave Cottle, Dave Urick, Bill Tierney, John Donowski, Mike Caravana and Dave Pietramala, head coaches at Maryland, Georgetown, Princeton, Hofstra, Dennison and Johns Hopkins, respectively.
"Some of the best lacrosse players and coaches in the history of the game are at the camp," said Esposito. "They come from all around the country, donating their time to honor Johnny Driscoll. There's no other camp where all these coaches come together."
Driscoll, Megale and Esposito were roommates at UVA, playing lacrosse and graduating in 1980. While there, Driscoll was a three-time All-American, received the Lt. Donald McLaughlin Jr. Memorial Award as Most Outstanding Midfielder in Division I NCAA competition and was a North-South All Star.
He also played on the USA national teams that won the World Championship in 1982 and 1986. Driscoll was later inducted into the Long Island Metro Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the Virginia Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
He loved the sport, as well as the camaraderie and strong bonds between players. He also adored his wife Kara and their three sons. Esposito called him a man of "character, integrity and strength."
AFTER COLLEGE, Driscoll moved to Manhattan. But in 1996, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. In spring 2002, he and his family moved to South Bend, Ind., where Kara's relatives live, and he became assistant lacrosse coach at the University of Notre Dame under another former UVA teammate, head coach Kevin Corrigan.
Megale and Esposito visited him that November and discussed hosting a lacrosse camp to benefit charity.
But Driscoll died later that month. His medical condition had prevented him from obtaining life insurance, and finances were tight for Kara — a full-time mother — and the triplets. So Megale and Esposito established the lacrosse camp, with all proceeds going to the John Driscoll Children's Trust Fund.
Tax-deductible contributions may also be made to the John Driscoll Children's Trust Fund and sent c/o Sonny Esposito, 15313 Surrey House Way, Centreville, VA 20120. "We could really use some more corporate donations," said Esposito.
Players in the camp are grouped according to skill level, with advanced ones challenged more. But everyone leaves improved. "We get nothing but great compliments," said Esposito. "Parents are donating money to a worthy cause, their kids are getting great instruction and the coaches are there with them all day, running up and down the field with the kids."
In the mornings, said Megale, players work on fundamentals — "offenses, defenses, dodging, shooting, checking, passing and catching. In the afternoons, there'll be more game situations, scrimmages and fast breaks. And throughout the day are competitions and contests for prizes."
Participants receive commemorative T-shirts, lacrosse backpacks and raffle prizes. "This year, kids are coming from as far away as Seattle and California," said Esposito. "They look online, get recommendations and look for good coaches. And here, kids can meet almost every top lacrosse coach in the country, all in one place."
Esposito and Megale appreciate the contribution of GMU and its assistant athletic director Bruce Cooper and facilities coordinator Lee Ann Houston. "They've been so good to us," said Esposito. "They take time out to be part of all three days and offer us the field at a much-reduced rate. It's their way of giving back to the local community."
Others also chip in. Virginia Run's Joe Aversa cooks for all the coaches, counselors and staff, treating them to sausage and peppers, steak, hot dogs and salads. "He pays for all the food, himself, and donates his time, too," said Esposito. "He's my neighbor and just wanted to help the triplets. Another neighbor, Mike Novak, cooks with him. Last year, Joe spent over $2,000 on food, but how could you say no to those triplets?"
Megale and Esposito originally planned to conduct the lacrosse camp for just three years — one year for each of Driscoll's sons — and this will be the third year. However, they may extend it.
"We're excited to do this," said Megale. "It's been so rewarding and a blast, the past two years. So after this camp, we'll think about continuing it. The week before Johnny passed away, we'd talked about doing a camp like this for charity, so this is carrying out his dream. It's also been a reunion of sorts with our teammates from our glory years; and at the same time, we're teaching kids how to play lacrosse."
"And it's memories forever," said Megale. "And years from now, if those kids go to those coaches' universities to play lacrosse and say they went to the Driscoll camp, it'll mean something."
The camp also means something to Driscoll's widow, Kara — that her husband's friends have looked after her young family so well. Bundles of energy, the boys like the Power Rangers, Scooby-Doo and Dora the Explorer and are currently learning how to print their names.
"They also love to play on the trampoline and swing set in the backyard and play T-ball and soccer," said Kara Driscoll. "And I'm getting them bikes for their birthdays — two-wheelers with training wheels."
She took the boys to some Notre Dame lacrosse games, and they watched a cousin in South Bend play lacrosse at his high school. They even have their own lacrosse sticks and, said their mom, "Last summer at the camp, Sonny taught them how to scoop. Now they think they're so cool."
They also like looking at old photos of themselves and their daddy together. "It's hard," said Kara Driscoll. "The boys have preschool programs, are doing neat things and have such cute personalities — and I think how John would love to see them."